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Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Keeper Shelf by Joan Reeves

Do you have a Keeper Shelf? You know, that shelf or perhaps even an entire bookcase filled with books that you love so much that you read them again and again?

I have a bookcase like that. This week when my husband had unexpected surgery, I found myself reaching for a comfort read. This time, I didn't have to wait until I arrived home to retrieve a book from my Keeper Shelf. With my Kindle, I have a digital Keeper Shelf I can carry with me.

Real Books Vs. Fake Books

A lot of people think that ebooks are a flash in the pan. That they're not "real" books. Does that make them fake books? Real books get respect. They get treasured. They get saved and sometimes find a permanent spot on a reader's shelf. They sometimes become "keepers" that are to be held and eventually re-read.

Chances are, if you read a lot, you have books on your Keeper Shelf. You probably re-read them ever so often. Many people don't understand this compulsion to read books that have already been read. How best to explain the desire to revisit a book after a year, or two, or ten?

Why Re-Read A Book

I read a wonderful quotation that focused on re-reading books that was attributed to the late William Robertson Davies, one of Canada’s most popular authors. Mr. Davies wrote novels and plays as well as dramatic criticism. He was also a journalist and a professor. Mr. Davies explained the allure of books on our keeper shelves this way: "The great sin is to assume that something that has been read once has been read forever."

Ah, we who stockpile favorite books on keeper shelves can attest to that. We have our favorites that we turn to again and again, and each time we discover something different in those well-read words. For my daughter, the book she reads every year is Dune by Frank Herbert. For me, it varies according to my mood.

In January, I re-read Watchers and Lightning, both by Dean Koontz. My mood changed, and I re-read A Rose In Winter and Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. (Read what I said about Woodiwiss's books.)

Will ebooks make keeper books a thing of the past? Definitely not. Readers will do as I have done and create a Keeper Shelf on their ebook device. One of the many things I love about my Kindle is that it makes my keeper shelf virtually limitless. I can store a thousand books and access them within minutes. I've actually been buying the ebook version of my favorite books so I can access them any time I want.

Digital Benefits

As someone who has moved frequently in her life, and has had to cull the library each time, I love knowing that I never have to get rid of a book again. No more do I worry about the weight of boxes or the imminent collapse of an overfilled bookcase. I carry my library with the books I've acquired in the last two years of Kindle ownership with me -- in my purse.

My print book keeper shelves in my office contain The Good Earth by Pearl Buck, just about all of Dean Koontz's work prior to 2000, the first 5 novels by Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Ninja by Eric Von Lustbader, Dan Rhodes Mysteries by Bill Crider, Panzer Spirit by Tom Townsend, most of the romances by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, the same for Linda Howard, O. Henry Short Stories, my 12th grade English Lit book, the Jane Austen books, and so many more.

Recently, I was flattered to receive an email from a woman who described herself as a "confirmed fan" of mine. She'd bought all my ebook romantic comedies and said they were keepers that she planned to re-read when she felt she needed a lift. You better believe that put a smile on my face. My ebooks are keepers to her. I hope she finds my latest book shown above, SCENTS and SENSUALITY, worthy of her digital keeper shelf too.

Mr. Davies used the example of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair in his discourse on re-reading. The book is usually required reading in college, but the book you read at 18 is different, you’ll discover, from the one you read 20 years later. The older you get, the more your vision of that book changes. The words have not changed, but the experience you’ve incurred with every year changes you, so what you get from the book will be different each time.

Post Script

I've often thought that reading a book again is like meeting an old friend after a long absence. In life, when this happens, we see the changes in our friends. In re-reading a favorite book, meeting that old friend again, as it were, we note, that the book has a different resonance. It affects us differently. Same number of pages. Same words.

The book has not changed.

We have.

(Joan Reeves writes Sassy, Sexy Contemporary Romance. Her books are available at all major ebook sellers with audio editions available at Amazon, Audible.com, and iTunes. Joan publishes Writing Hacks, a free subscription newsletter for writers, and Wordplay, a free subscription newsletter for readers. Info? Visit Joan's Blog, SlingWords.


  1. I confess to not rereading books, even ones I really liked. I do keep some of the physical books around anyway, although now that I have my Kindle it's easier to archive e-books. There are so many books out there still waiting to be read, I don't have enough time to reread ones I've already read, no matter how good they are. I do rewatch movies that I liked, mostly when nothing better is on TV.

  2. I don't reread books anymore. I just don't have time. I do have keeper shelves and rooms!

  3. Joan, I have numerous books I re-read, partly for enjoyment and partly to remind myself why the author's writing stands out in my mind. Lovely post.